OFFENCES AGAINST THE PERSON
• Two separate murder trials reached judgement stage in Regional Court 5 at the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, November 22. In both cases, the deaths of the victims appear to be the result of vigilante action. In the first case, 3 males were charged with assaulting a man, who, it was claimed, had stolen a cell ’phone from one of the accused. The assaulted man subsequently died of his injuries.
According to the evidence of the two state witnesses, who claimed to have witnessed the assault, the deceased was beaten with a copper pipe (or a plastic pipe, according to one of the witnesses) and then tied to the tow-bar of a vehicle owned by Accused No 1, and dragged naked along a gravel road for a distance of 300 metres.
All three defence attorneys questioned the truthfulness of the witnesses’ testmonies, citing the discrepancies in the description of the assault weapon used, the fact that both witnesses were related to the deceased and had apparently connived at presenting evidence that was prejudicial to the 3 accused, and that their description of the injuries inflicted on the deceased contradicted the medical evidence presented by the doctor who had performed the post mortem.
The post mortem examination had revealed no sign of the kind of injuries that could be expected from having dragged a naked body along a gravel road, nor were there any signs of any other kind of torture. The head injuries inflicted during the alleged beating were not consistent with the use of a metal pipe, as the skull was not fractured, nor were there any indentations indicating the use of a heavy metal object.
The injuries were more consistent with the use of a lightweight weapon. The deceased had, however, sustained two open wounds to the head. Judgement will be delivered on March 1, 2018. The 3 accused are all out on bail.
• In the second trial, 3 males were similarly charged with assaulting a male accused of stealing goods from one of the accused. As in the first incident, the victim subsequently died of his injuries. As in the first trial, the defence attorney questioned the credibility of the witness who claimed to be an eye witness to the assault, and had initially stated that four men had been present at the assault. The fourth accused had subsequently provided an alibi which placed him in Inanda on the date in question.
The assault supposedly occurred at 3 am in the morning, yet it was claimed that a number of bystanders was present. Not one of these bystanders could be identified. The witness testified that she had been woken by one of the accused and brought to a place in the street where the supposed thief had been tied to a lamp-post. The 3 accused then beat the man with a sjambok, a wooden stick and a length of plank.
The father of the victim testified that when he arrived at the scene, his son was still alive and was bleeding from his mouth, his nose and his ears. Magistrate Ngobese questioned why the post-mortem photographs did not show any blood on the victim’s face. The prosecutor responded that he had assumed that the victim had been washed prior to being photographed.
The post mortem report stated that the deceased had sustained multiple bruising over his body, and listed the cause of death as congestion in the lungs, preventing oxygen from reaching the brain. Defence attorney Rossouw asked the court to consider reducing the charge from murder to culpable homicide or even to assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Judgement will be delivered on January 15, 2018. All 3 accused are out on bail.